Like Forsythias in their opera of yellow, and magnolias in their pink or white blossom-song, fiddlehead season is short, sometimes only 2 weeks. Fiddleheads are wild, their joy fleeting, their origin and taste unique. The fiddlehead is the new growth of an ancient plant family, the ferns. While there are many species of ferns, the fiddleheads available in Ontario markets in late April or early May are usually those of the Ostrich Fern. Interestingly, fiddleheads resist cultivation (they prefer swampy edges of woods), and are one of the few commercially available wild-crafted foods. Fiddleheads taste like…themselves. Some people compare their flavor to a combination of asparagus, green beans and okra. They are great on their own, in pasta salad, in frittata, lightly pickled, with other delicious seasonal veggies. The joy of eating fiddleheads, though, goes beyond their fresh green flavor and nutrient density: There is also the satisfaction we get from being in alignment with what is local and in season – an intellectual satisfaction born of making an ethical, politically-correct food choices, but also a purely physical one, as we nourish our bodies with truly spring food. Increase veggie variety in your diet, join the local seasonal bandwagon, support internal detoxification: try fiddleheads this year! Below is a recipe to get you started.
Sautéed Fiddlehead Ferns with Parsley and Garlic
This is probably the second easiest Fiddlehead recipe you’re likely to come across, right after boiling and serving with butter. Simple preparation brings out the wonderful, fresh flavor of the Fiddlehead with a minimum of muss, fuss or bother.
- 1-pound Fiddleheads
- 1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced very fine
- 1⁄4 cup butter or extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Trim any brown ends off of the fern shoots and wash them in cold water, pulling the paper-like brown skin off as you go. Drain and pat dry. Crush the minced garlic with the back of a spoon or the side of a large knife. Heat half of the butter (or olive oil) in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the fern shoots and turn the heat up to medium-high. The ferns should sizzle, but don’t allow the butter to burn. Toss and stir for about 5 minutes. Add the butter (or oil), the garlic, and the parsley. Continue cooking for one minute longer, or until you can smell the garlic and the ferns are tender. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately on hot plates.